By Tara Hebbar
More than 99% of all species that ever existed on the planet Earth have already become extinct. Five mass extinctions have been recorded until today all caused by major geologic and climatic events. Scientific evidence shows that a sixth mass extinction is happening right now, but unlike the preceding mass extinctions, the current extinction is due to actions by humans. Many of the endangered animal species are killed all across the globe because of habitat loss, over-harvesting, poaching, agriculture, forestry, mining and urbanization. In addition to these, pollution, the rise of sea level due to global warming and human overpopulation are also some main causes of extinction.
Species diversity is defined as a measure of an ecosystem’s species richness and evenness. A diverse ecosystem can function efficiently and productively by keeping things in balance. Specific species that help maintain the balance and population are called keystone species. Predators are mainly keystone species. The extinction of any species has an effect on the food chain, environment and even humanity locally and later globally. The extinction of any animal, big or small has a stunning effect on the planet. The loss of a predator can result in a trophic cascade, that is defined as an ecological phenomenon provoked by the extinction of a predator that can also impact populations of prey, which can cause dramatic ecosystem and food web changes in a specific area or region.
Some of the largest effects of extinction are the disruption of the food chain, population balance and control. For example, in Scotland wolves were thought of as pests and killed. Scottish highland’s last wolf might have been hunted in as early as the 1700s. As a result, the population of deer escalated and doubled consuming more vegetation and ruining the land. Scotland also had a scarcity of trees and every time they tried to grow more the deer would eat them before they grew. Deer also spread diseases like Lyme disease. Wolves were considered eradicated until a few were spotted around 1970. Now Scotland is trying their best to recover the wolf population as they have faced the harsh consequences.
In some countries, tigers are poached for their body parts because countries like China have a high and constant demand for these products. Already the number of tigers in China is dwindling and this affects China’s local biodiversity and ecological balance. It also encourages other countries to engage in the illegal trade of poaching tigers because of the soaring demand and price. China keeps the few tigers left in captivity. The poaching has numerous social effects too. Tiger products are extremely popular in the black markets and gain huge profits for black marketers. Moreover, these acts are most often directed by well-armed criminal gangs, tiger products are also used as bribes for promotions within corporations, so in a way, it is funding crime. This drainage of tigers can lead to their extinction as only a small number are left all over the world, this extinction will have a massive global and local effect.
One more species under threat that humans depend on is the common honeybee. Honeybees are responsible for the pollination of more than 250,000 different species of plants. However, an epidemic, known as “colony collapse disorder” has eradicated entire populations of the bees, and scientists are still working to discover its real cause. Neonicotinoids are another form of nicotine that is used in several plants to keep away insects. Once the bees get a taste of this pesticide they get addicted. It causes severe damage to their central nervous systems which leads to impaired body functions and eventually death. Countries like Germany, UK, France have banned the use of Neonicotinoids. The populations of bees are already dwindling and have already forced some breeders to import colonies of bees to their fields in order to keep supplies up. The continued losses of the bee populations could threaten the supply of crops like almonds, apples and cucumbers. Of the many different crops, humans depend upon for food all over the world, 87 of crop varieties rely on pollinators, most of them being honeybees, while only 28 different crops could survive without such assistance. If these species go extinct it is scientists predict that humans will be soon after.
Extinction is a natural process that comes with the evolution of an ecosystem. Nevertheless, because of the bad habits and way of living of the human species, the rate of extinction has significantly increased in a terrible manner. We are losing species that we cannot live for long without. This is an inevitable process that is bound to happen but the least we can do as humans and citizens of the world is mitigate this process. Some ways to do so are:
- Get educated about some endangered species in and around your area – Once this is followed you can take precautions, like regulating the use of plastic and paper to save the species and spread the word.
- Make your home, workspace, school wildlife-friendly – Do small things like using online note-taking methods at work and school to help the environment.
- The government should keep stringent laws with follow-up action – There should be a guideline as to what can be killed and poached and what can’t. For example in India, poaching is an illegal act but the punishments are not severe. So people still poach tigers and other animals.
- Stop using pesticides and herbicides – Pesticides are used in farms in India and worldwide. Try eating organic or pesticide-free food.
- Shop ethically – Avoid buying products that use animal body parts, like leather, ivory etc.
- Stop deforestation – Reduce your paper wastage and save trees and animal habitats. And prevent natural disasters like soil erosion and floods caused by the uprooting of trees by signing petitions deforestation and bring it to the notice of others around you.
- Help put an end to global warming – Use public transport and reduce carbon emissions.
- Think before you act- Be cautious of your actions and do small things that have huge impacts.
Many organisations and governments are taking the initiative to solve this rising problem. For example:
- Wildlife conservation society –Words towards climate change, extinction, human-wildlife coexistence.
- Paws – Brings people together to promote animal respect.
- Wildlife Alliance – Battling illegal wildlife trade.
- World Wildlife Fund – The Main goal is to sustain biodiversity
- International Fund for Animal Welfare – Saves animals and their habitats
- People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) – Largest animal rights organization, works for public education, research, legislation and animal rescue.
By doing the above and following the example of the organizations above, we are not only saving the animals but saving ourselves and the generations of humans and animals to come. As species by species leave the earth we will have to face the disastrous repercussions. Every animal, every species does more for us than we realize. Without them, life would be miserably difficult and there would be numerous challenges we would have to conquer not long before humanity goes extinct too. Let us maintain the species diversity for a better and improved tomorrow.
Balun, Robert. “The Importance of Species Diversity to the Ecosystem.” Sciencing, 2 Mar. 2019, sciencing.com/importance-species-diversity-ecosystem-6508788.html.
Bove, Jennifer. “Why It Matters When Species Go Extinct.” ThoughtCo, ThoughtCo, 16 May 2019, www.thoughtco.com/why-it-matters-when-species-go-extinct-1182006.
The Extinction Crisis, www.biologicaldiversity.org/programs/biodiversity/elements_of_biodiversity/extinction_crisis/.
Foundation, CK-12. “12 Foundation.” CK, www.ck12.org/book/CBSE_Biology_Book_Class_XII/section/19.3/.
“How Would a Species’ Extinction Impact the Food Web, Our Ecosystems?” Local Weather from AccuWeather.com – Superior Accuracy™, www.accuweather.com/en/weather-news/how-would-a-species-extinction-impact-the-food-web-our-ecosystems/70004743.
Kazmeyer, Milton. “How Do the Extinctions of Other Creatures Affect Humans Directly?” Sciencing, 2 Mar. 2019, sciencing.com/extinctions-other-creatures-affect-humans-directly-20692.html.
Merry, Mitch. “10 Easy Things You Can Do to Save Endangered Species.” Endangered Species Coalition, www.endangered.org/10-easy-things-you-can-do-to-save-endangered-species/.
Kenyon, Peter. “Landowner Aims To Bring Wolves Back To Scotland, Centuries After They Were Wiped Out.” NPR, NPR, 3 May 2018, www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2018/05/03/607700542/landowner-aims-to-bring-wolves-back-to-scotland-centuries-after-they-were-wiped.
Day, Harvey. “Save the Tiger: Poaching Facts.” The Independent, Independent Digital News and Media, 28 July 2014, www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/save-the-tiger-poaching-facts-9630722.html.
Bendix, Aria. “The US Just Banned 12 Pesticides That Are like Nicotine for Bees. Here’s How Dangerous They Are.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 30 May 2019, 18:17, www.businessinsider.in/The-US-just-banned-12-pesticides-that-are-like-nicotine-for-bees-Heres-how-dangerous-they-are-/articleshow/69583617.cms.